Merging the online and the offline self

Back when I started this blog in 2008, I had no idea what would become of it. I had started writing in 2002 for the state’s largest paper in a now defunct section of the paper called Community Voices where they looked to hear the views of non-native Mainers. After a few stints that were well received I was asked to become part of the regular rotation of columnists that were featured. For a kid who had always dreamed of writing professionally but was derailed by an early marriage and motherhood that opportunity felt like a dream come true. I was able to share my thoughts and earn enough money to buy a few cups of coffee!

After amassing a decent portfolio of work with the Portland Press Herald’s Community Voices section, I decided to pitch the idea of my own column to a few local papers and both the Portland Phoenix (also part of the Boston and Providence Phoenix family) and the York County Journal Tribune would become my writing home though my time with the Journal Tribune would be brief, my column with the Phoenix is still going strong after 8 years.

Yet in 2007-2008, I realized I needed a place where I could really say what I wanted to say. At the same time, I wanted a space for other people of color in Maine to get information so this blog was hatched. Granted one of my biggest struggles in this space is that I can’t fit myself into a specific niche, hell I like to talk!

Until recently I refrained from putting either my name or face out here as part of this blog but since I have started blogging, the social media landscape has changed. To be frank the internet is no longer an anonymous place in most cases and the divide between online and offline life is very a small one at best. Technology has made the internet accessible to the masses.

In the past year, I have come across folks in my professional life including media folks who it turned out were not only readers of my Phoenix work but readers of this blog and followers of mine on twitter. At times I have been nervous about people knowing about my writing life but I recently asked myself why? Yes, I do share quite a bit here, hell I have talked about my marital woes, financial woes and other issues that are often thought too personal to share, granted even I have my lines in the sand. But in a world where jobs can be lost or never even received due to our social media activity maybe instead of hiding ourselves it’s better to be truthful. Admittedly I know there are circumstances where that is not possible and not safe but I suspect most of us are not engaged in online activities that are a matter of life or death.

I admit that as the head of a Christian faith based organization, I do sometimes wonder if my online persona (the offline me is actually the same and actually a lot more energetic shall we say) will offend a funder? Or some other person I know professionally? In recent months I have started to get inkling that there might very well be folks I report to who read my work. I know I am a lot more careful about speaking about my work, though if you follow me on either twitter or Facebook, you heard about the pothead who showed up an hour late for a job interview. In that case, anyone silly enough to do such a thing deserves to have such antics shared with the greater world.

The reality though is the world is a lot smaller than it used to be and rarely are there six degrees of separation between us. So as scary as it is I have chosen to embrace that and trust that being myself both offline and online is a good thing. I especially think as blogging becomes a legitimate way to earn a living for those who dare to dream that dream, that online anonymity will be a thing of the past. Social media only works well if we are credible and how much more credible can we be than to reveal our identities.

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